Advancing Skills for Professionals in the Rural Economy (Aspire)

What is a Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning?

aspire logo

In January 2005 the Government awarded Harper Adams funding to establish a Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL), in recognition of demonstrated excellence in higher education.

Harper Adams was selected in recognition of its outstanding work in:

  • Helping students develop their academic and professional skills
  • Providing work-based learning for sandwich students
  • Meeting the continuing professional development needs of rural professionals requiring short-courses and part-time study
  • Supporting those with a disability

The judges selected Harper Adams as a CETL based on evidence from external reviews, student progression and achievement data, graduate employment track record and student satisfaction.

Aspire was the only CETL, of the total 74 awarded, located within an institution or university faculty that specialises in supporting the needs of the rural economy, land-based and food sectors.

What did Aspire do?

The purpose of the Aspire CETL was to promote excellence in teaching and learning in higher education. Staff work with students from Harper Adams and colleagues from other universities and colleges to develop innovative ways to teach and support learning.

The work specifically focused on supporting:

  • Placement learning
  • Continuing professional development through part-time and work-based learning
  • Transferable academic and professional skills (communication, numeracy, IT, problem solving, team work, personal development and career management)
  • Learner support for disabled students and those needing assistance to develop specific study or numeracy skills
  • Learning using information and communication technologies

Employers and professional bodies also contributed to the development of new ideas.

What additional resources did Aspire provide?

The Higher Education Funding Council for England granted Harper Adams University 1.94 million to reward its achievements and enable further excellence to be developed and shared with others.

The funds were used to:

  • Ensure the Aspire Centre provided staff, students and rural professionals with a stimulating place to work, to study and to access support and resources
  • Improve the IT platform so that learning technologies could be enhanced through an improved learning environment and support for both campus-based students and distance learners
  • Provide the specialist support, professional development, time and rewards to encourage and enable staff and students to develop and evaluate learning and teaching innovations
  • Harness the imagination and creativity of staff to develop and reflect on innovative approaches to learning and learner support, through Aspire fellowships
  • Support staff to share their work and findings, internally, and externally through speaking at learning & teaching events, contributing to research-based publications and by providing opportunities for inward secondments for colleagues from other universities and colleges


Aspire: as-pir', v., to aim at or strive for higher things